Why is accessibility important and why does it matter to you?

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"For most people, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible." - Mary Pat Radabaugh


What Is Inaccessible?

[8]disability graphic

Places like public libraries or recreation centers are public services, but close soon after the typical school or work 9 to 5 and are places of high risk for Covid-19. Access to the internet, which is where for most job applications the only way to apply, rely on people paying for their internet services. Schools are incorporating more and more technology into the classrooms, like laptops and tablets, and having readings and homework solely online. [3, 7]

This isn’t some new phenomenon due to Covid-19, as early as 2012 [6] there are notes on how it’s not just online only job applications, but an online social presence that many can’t afford. Things like networking on LinkedIn can give applicants a significant advantage that those without regular internet access can’t get. In 2011 62% of 1,055 presidents of colleges and universities used online textbooks.[11] For some lucky college students they find themselves elibible to request and recieve financial aid, though most are currently only available due to Covid-19 such as the Emergancy Broadband Benefit. [4,5, 12] There were even bills introduced, not passed, in House in 2019 2020 to help keep the internet accessible for the public.[13, 14, 15]

There are organizations such as the National Digital Inclusion Alliance that work to bridge that gap through providing technology training, publishing papers, and getting involved in policy writing.

National Digital Inclusion Alliance Infographic

This leads into the overlap concerning how important having the funds to access technologies with those physical and mental disabilities needing further technology or aids to access other aspects of life on top of that. Further increased by the issue that not everyone can afford the technology they need to accommodate their disability. Things like closed captions are becoming more common but you can probably think of at least a dozen YouTube videos with extremely inaccurate ones, there’s at least one entire channel dedicated to it. Alt text is also fairly commonly mentioned, but not implemented everywhere. Entrance ramps that are far out of the way. In summary, a lack of available options.

"Accessible ICT can level the playing field for persons with disabilities across life domains including education, employment, e-governance and civic participation, financial inclusion, and disaster management." - Deepti Samant Raja 6

Team meetings are meant to be a time to hash out problems and come up with solutions, but how inclusive are you being? Can everyone contribute? Are you understanding everyone? Can everyone understand you? [1]

It takes effort to put in the necessary work and learn the skills to be inclusive and create an inclusive workspace. Doing that now makes a long term difference in the lives of everyone can benefit from being able to access what are regularly considered common resources.

How to be Inclusive and Encourage that Inclusion

When it comes to the workplace and instilling the practice of an inclusive environment for people with disabilities, different forms of communication are one way to achieve it. If we specifically reflect on the different types of meetings held within companies and schools for example, from the overall administrative team to the teams of smaller organizations or peer groups within the institute, we can begin to see some of the ways in which we can increase inclusivity.

The United Nations’ ESCAP [1] wrote a document that sheds some light on how to have more disability-inclusive meetings. As an important foundation for constructing solutions as we dive in to some insights from ESCAP and others, let us reiterate what the actual issue is: that people with disabilities face a barrier(s) such that it will require some creative and considerate thinking from all involved persons in the organization to help their participation in meetings to be more effective and almost seamless.

At times, it seems like “one-size fits all” solution, but it is encouraged that one take these insights as a way to be able to construct a solution of one’s own according to unique scenarios. [1] A critical next step is to reflect on ourselves as individuals. What have we personally done in meetings with these persons, whether brief or long, to be simply considerate or help accelerate the needed accommodations, so the focus can be on the topic being discussed? Can we truly say we are working as a team to increase the company or school’s success when we have issues from within the structure such disability-inclusivity that we are seemingly timid in addressing? In the big picture, if we do not allow for our environment to be one that is truly striving toward inclusivity, can we truly say that we’re nearing our highest potential as an organization?

To encourage more accessible environments, it is important to recognize that some disabilities may not be as visible, so while it is easy to say that the meeting room will have the proper equipment to accommodate those who use wheelchairs for example, what are some more specialized and indicative ways that accessibility can be instilled? When we consider what the UNESCAP’s document says are four critical areas of accessibility:The physical environment, transportation, information and communications, and other facilities and services open to the public [1]. What are some of the areas that may need some more attention?

Why We Care

From our everyday lives to the workplace, there is not a place where technology does not often influence us especially in the US. Ensuring and reinforcing accessible technologies such as with the internet, videos, and the various digital tools involved to operate them, allows for victories over barriers and walls that prevent people with disabilities from reaching their fullest capabilities and from participating in a valuable way to society [9]. Innovative thinking is being lost and hidden in the shadows of our inability to see possibilities of looking past ourselves, especially if we are able-bodied. Despite how far we have come in understanding people, and though there are laws in place to promote this topic, from a sociological standpoint, it seems as though we, as a society, made it a norm to show some deviance in seeing it as enough to implement an obvious accessible technology for the sake of the law and turn a blind eye to what more could be done. It will not only be to the advantage of people with disabilities to avidly uphold the accessibility standards set by the government through the ADA laws but also to us as it means a chance to collaborate with more diverse groups and add to our knowledge in order to advance society for the better [9]. According to Baker’s “Making Technology Accessible to Everyone,” one in four adults experience a disability and about 70% of users discontinue using a website that is difficult to navigate [10]. More consideration towards this subject would hopefully decrease the attitude of ritualism that also tends to be a side effect of the process of providing aid to people with disabilities.



  • The accessible technology may be available, but how much time is spent talking about them versus taking the steps to have them implemented and used in a routine manner as needed?
  • The circumstances of a disability vary. What are we doing now to ready ourselves for unexpected circumstances that might force as to revisit the idea of inclusivity and being able to play a role in society despite the timid attitude toward the subject.
  • To reiterate, how far have we come in increasing accessibility for as many people as possible and how much farther could we go?

Further Reading